On October 18 and 19, 2019, 46 of the finest high school and college anglers from 44 states gathered at The Willows Club in Priest River, Idaho for the inaugural Big Bass Zone Junior Championship presented by Bassmaster. The single fish format event embodied grassroots fishing at its finest. It didn’t matter if the participants fished from shore, float tube, kayak, or boat; the opportunity to compete on a national stage was equal for all.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication formulated by the tournament organizer, Bill Siemantel. Assigned to Fire Station 114 on the “A” shift, Bill worked tirelessly day and night organizing the event to highlight a sport he truly loves. A champion angler himself, Bill built a solid foundation for a successful tournament by surrounding himself with an excellent team of people, including members from our own LAFD Swift Rescue Team who volunteered their time and a large number of generous donors to make sure the seemingly impossible was smoothly executed.
“I just wanted it to be all about our future, the youth,” replied Firefighter Siemantel when asked about his role in developing the event. “My goal was to do something special and try to give back to the next generation of anglers and their families. Bill was able to put together $140,000.00 in college scholarships to Bethel University, trips for the kids from Anglers Inn International, along with a thousand dollars in prizes. Months of long hours and a lot of hard work went into planning the logistical challenge. Luckily, it all paid off as the 2019 BBZ JC event was executed nearly flawlessly by all involved”.
The parents of these young anglers and the support they provide was recognized, making this a true family event. Based on the smiles and comments from parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends, it’s hard to tell who enjoyed the event more.
Tournament Weigh-Master, Tony McCalmant, and Master of Ceremonies, Mike Whitlow, looked on as Aiden Elmore (AJ Max) displayed his winning catch: a beautiful 5.90-pound largemouth bass. Regardless of one’s experience and familiarity with modern bass boats, the playing field was leveled, and the tournament rules ensured fairness.
The barriers of competing brands that traditionally ruled who fished in what bass tournaments were removed, allowing for the industry support and sponsorship for the BBZ JC to be unprecedented. Competing manufacturers provided just under $400,000.00, another industry first. Bass Cat Boats’ Sales and Marketing VIP Dallas Hodges attended to present the champion with the Bass Cat “Margay” boat package valued at over $30,000.00.
Congratulations to all of the competitors, their families, and friends. Regardless of where each individual finished in this event, it is hard to view any of the participants as anything less than champions. These individuals fished throughout the year, competing in their individual states to qualify for the finals in Idaho. I know Bill wanted to thank everyone who worked tirelessly together to make this tournament a great success. He especially wanted to thank the members of the LAFD who volunteered their skills and took time out of their personal lives to come to the event to ensure the safety of the kids and their family members. Bill also wanted to recognize all of the sponsors. Their support and generosity went above and beyond measures and was greatly appreciated by him. Another group of people that Bill wanted to recognize were the Boat Captains; without them and their boats, this tournament wouldn’t have been possible.
Bill didn’t really want his part of the story told, but we felt it was important to recognize and give credit where credit was due. Hopefully, this fine example of selfless commitment will inspire others in the future to step out of their comfort zones and into a role of leadership and follow Bill’s example.
Bill also produced a fishing show from the event. To watch the 2019 BBZ JC fishing show and look behind the scene to see the impact this event had on these anglers and families, you can go to www.bbzworld.com
Alabama – Brennen Howard, Arizona – Bryce Drake, Arkansas – Hayden Adams, California – Jed Dickerson, Colorado – Alec Castrejon, Connecticut – Dylan Napoleone, Delaware – John Cooper, Florida – Colton Smith, Idaho – Nathanial Kimberling, Illinois – Trey Mckinney, Indiana – Colsyn Head, Iowa – Kyle Barr, Kansas – Cody Stegman, Kentucky – Will Carnes, Louisianna – Bryant Martin, Maryland – Carson Forrester, Michigan – Remington Barkley, Minnesota – Tyler Bahr, Mississippi – Garrett McWilliams, Missouri – Zak Hobbs, Montana – Yeej Moua, Nevada – Carter Doren, New Hampshire – Dylan Gardner, New Jersey – Aiden Elmore, New Mexico – Adam Condito, New York – Nicholas Sanderson, North Carolina – Nathan Canaday, North Dakota – Colton Blomberg, Ohio – Samuel Louw, Oklahoma – Will Bryan, Oregon – Noah Fertick, Oregon (Tie) – Michael Postlewait, Pennsylvania – Austin Aikins, South Carolina – Evan Cain, South Dakota – Tyler Darling, Tennessee – Banks Shaw, Texas – Hunter Muncrief, Utah – Cricket Coates, Virginia – Colin Bennett, Washington – Blake Williams, Wyoming – Katy Carey, Wyoming (Tie) – Jack Harpole, California – Hunter Cannon B.A.S.S., Oregon – Joshua Buller B.A.S.S., Michigan – Mitch Straffon, B.A.S.S – Bassin, Kansas – Parker Still Bassin.
The BBZ JC Swift Water Rescue Team (Pic 4)
Captain Tim Foor Firefighter, Captain Thomas Henzgen, Paramedic Geoffrey Balchowsky, Apparatus Operator Brandon Charbonnet, Apparatus Operator Brian Labrie. The Los Angeles City Fire Department is the Big Bass Zone Junior Championship Sentinels.
By Derrek Stewart—Senior Editor theBBZ.com & John Hicks—Managing Editor The Fireman’s Grapevine